Impacts of Deforestation on Malaria in South West Nigeria: The Epidemiological, Socio Economic, and Ecological Implications

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Forest resources in Nigeria are undergoing severe exploitation pressure due to demographic growth and socio-economic development. Through the process of forest clearing, deforestation alters the ecology of local malaria vectors. The overall goal of this study was to seek to clarify the mechanisms linking deforestation, economic development and malaria epidemiology and the ecological implications. The research methodology stresses a mix scale approach involving social research in areas of active and non-active deforestation in Ebonyi state Nigeria and the descriptive assessment and analysis of the forest resource exploitation issues, as well as the implication for sustainable forest resource management. Findings indicate that the income status of individuals residing in the areas of active deforestation was lower than those of areas of non-active deforestation. Higher yearly episodes of malaria and the tendency to spend less amount of money for malaria treatment characterized the areas of active deforestation and the inhabitants had higher preference for use of woodfuel and use of forest medicinal herbs for malaria treatment. In the areas of active deforestation, the mosquito night biting/landing rates were considerably higher than those of areas of non-active deforestation. Conservation policies aimed at slowing deforestation will impact malaria and would reduce the increasing incidence of deforestation-dependent malaria epidemics.

Forest biodiversity, and the natural functioning of forest ecosystems, contribute immensely to human health. Indeed, the drastic alteration of forest systems – through large-scale deforestation– can open up opportunities for disease-causing pathogens, such as parasites, viruses or bacteria, to infect other organisms with which they have previously had no contact [1]. In Nigeria as in most tropical regions of the world, deforestation constitutes a major health, environmental, ecological and socio-economic challenge. The land area of Nigeria is 923,768 km2 with mangrove and rain forests in the south which occupy about 20% of Nigeria’s land area. The annual deforestation rate in Nigeria is 5.0%, compared to a global rate of 0.6% [2]. The World Development Indicator estimates an average annual deforestation of 3,984 per annum for Nigeria for the period 1990-2000. The total area under forest cover is put at 135 sq. km, while the rate of forestland conversion is 2.6 percent [3]. Nigeria has lost more than half of its forest in the past five years and is globally considered as the world’s highest deforested country [4]. . Between 2000 and 2005 Nigeria lost 55.7 percent of its primary forests -- defined as forests with no visible signs of past or present human activities [5]. Logging, subsistence agriculture, and the collection of fuelwood are cited as leading causes of forest clearing in the West African country. The increase in Nigeria's population estimated to be about 140 million has brought about demand for farmland particularly in the rural areas. As a result of extensive clearing of lands, there is soil degradation with erosion. Some extensive clearings have extended illegally to the forest reserves where the trees have been used as fire wood or fuel woods. Through the process of clearing forests and subsequent agricultural or other project development, deforestation alters every element of local ecosystems such as microclimate, soil, and aquatic conditions, and most significantly, the ecology of local flora and fauna, including human disease vectors [6]. Of all the forest vector species that transmit diseases to humans, mosquitoes are among the most sensitive to environmental changes because of deforestation: their survival, density, and distribution are dramatically influenced by small changes in environmental conditions, such as...
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